Foster care ‘successes’ provide an ongoing inspiration 4

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Foster care ‘successes’ provide an ongoing inspiration 4

Foster carers motivate Pandora Christie

Foster carers support Pandora Christie

Introduction: Foster Care Fortnight!

Foster Care Fortnight is approaching the end of its first week. Judging by the comments and posts on social media, it is encouraging to see that so many individuals and organisations have made a concentrated effort to put foster care to the fore. We at Rainbow Fostering are marking Foster Care Fortnight this year through a dedicated blog series. These focus on individual stories  – people who have been through the foster care system and proceeded to make a considerable success of their lives. This could not have been done without the care and support of foster carers. They made the difference. What stands out in each of these accounts is that; against the odds, success was achieved through an effort of will – combined with self-belief. This is where foster carers can play such a vital part in changing the whole course of a young person’s life.

Children come into the world with a natural sense of wonder and expectation. They are pre-programmed to explore their environment with a sense of enthusiasm. If these natural tendencies are encouraged and a child feels secure, then it is almost certain they will develop into confident youngsters brimming with confidence. Without being nurtured in this way, they can quickly become withdrawn and uncommunicative. If their home environment is one where they are subjected to abuse and/ or neglect, it’s hardly surprising that young lives are quickly blighted. But children are naturally resilient. Foster care is all about recognising this. Carers who can offer love, support and stability will – if they persevere – be rewarded by seeing that sense of wonder return to a child or young person. Then they can feel that the world really is their oyster. That they have a perfect right to imagine the best kind of future for themselves: surgeon, airline pilot, musician…whatever. All it takes is for foster carers to dream that dream with them. Then the sky’s the limit.

The sharing of dreams: this has to be what Foster Care Fortnight is all about. The country is short of around 8,000 foster families. If the message can be got across that fostering can be all about enabling and empowering, we should be able to attract many more families to consider fostering a child. Doing this for a vulnerable youngster and witnessing their lives literally being turned around, is an accomplishment like no other. There is research to suggest that many more people would be prepared to foster child, but the general level of awareness about what fostering involves is incredibly low.

You can find out more about this year’s campaign being run by the leading fostering charity – The Fostering Network – by visiting:

www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk

the theme of the campaign is #changeafuture

Care needs to be high on the public agenda.

Keeping foster care in the mind of the public is crucial if we are going to be successful in attracting more people to become foster carers. Perhaps the best way of doing this is to pay particular attention to the positive: to stress how foster carers really can change the futures of those they care for. Fortunately, there are some really inspiring stories out there. We can draw on the list of one hundred ‘fostering heroes’ which has been drawn up by Lemn Sissay, the poet. He came through the care system himself so knows what he’s talking about for direct experience. As he himself says:

“I have compiled this small list of 100 people from the UK who were fostered adopted or in children’s homes. I have met most of them on my travels.”

Celebrating these individual stories in Foster Care Fortnight is a great way of supporting the campaign #changeafuture. This is because without the passion and commitment of foster carers these stories would not exist.

Care background: radio host and TV presenter Pandora Christie.

Pandora Christie is the charismatic and captivating radio host and TV presenter. She is based in London and has rapidly become one of the country’s brightest media stars. It doesn’t matter whether she is behind the microphone or appearing on our TV screens, she has a humorous and engaging style of delivery that is unique to her. She certainly has an impressive radio pedigree, having been the leading female DJ on Capital FM for three years. She impressed her personality on an enthusiastic audience hosting shows and interviewing celebrities. More recently, Pandora has made the move to Kiss which is the UK’s most popular youth radio station. She is now hosting the award winning morning show as well as the hugely popular ‘Kisstory’ slot.

Pandora’s easy, confident style and engaging personality has meant that she has hosted live events at the renowned Wembley stadium venue as well as London’s O2 Arena. Not for the feint hearted. She has also managed to land interviews with some of the biggest stars in the media and entertainment firmament. It’s an impressive list, including among many others: Mark Wahlberg, Little Mix, Kim Kardashian, Will Farrell and Usher.

Since her beginnings in radio and TV, Pandora has lined up on the red carpet for Blog Star, Cosmopolitan Awards and FM Model Agency. She is well established and on her way to becoming one of the biggest personalities in the media landscape. She is a well-rounded character and away from the glitz and razzmatazz of the entertainment world, she likes to spend time with her dogs, Henry and Smudge. And she is a passionate advocate for various animal rights organisations as well a Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

This interest and concern for the underdog perhaps provides a few clues about Pandora the person The woman that didn’t always have a commanding position in the worlds of radio and TV. How does someone come to thrive in such competitive and ego-fuelled worlds? The answer to this becomes singularly remarkable when you learn that Pandora grew up in foster care and life has not been easy for her from an early age. The fact that her friends testify to the positive and bubbly nature of her personality disguises the fact that her life was marked by tragedy from a young age. She was only nine years of age when she watched helpless as her mother had a heart attack. As she herself says: 

“my life changed the moment I saw my mother have a heart in front of me, I was nine years old at the time and saw my mum laying on the sofa foaming at the mouth convulsing which, looked like something straight out of a horror movie, I just stood there frozen in shock not understanding what the hell was going on but at the same time having an awful sense that something horrendous was taking place.”

Before the passing of her mother, Pandora had already been in and out of the care system from the day she was born. this was because her mother suffered from alcohol addiction. This meant that Pandora was even made to fetch alcohol for her mother who was often too drunk to get it. It was never clear to her why it was that a seven-year-old girl had been given bottles of sherry simply by producing a note in her mother’s handwriting. So who her mother was incapacitated, Pandora and her sister Abigail would find themselves being sent to a care home. Her mother would from time to time go into rehabilitation. This would mean another round of going in and out of care. For Pandora this lack of stability for her and her sister was made worse as there were times when they were subjected to abuse from their mother. As Pandora says now, that to cope, she blocked out a lot of her childhood memories. She concedes that she would not have probably survived her ordeals were it not for her older sister Abigail.

An experience of being fostered that many will sympathise with.

Pandora grew up being moved from one fostering family to another. this became her norm. It was a merry go round and there were times when she was happy and other times when she felt “really low”.  As she explains: ‘Moving from family to family for a short amount of time was normal to me, almost like going on a mini holiday just with people you don’t know. Then there were the times when she looked for food in bins near restaurants. On one occasion her mother passed out drunk on a park bench and Pandora was left alone to play on the swings. It was only the kind intervention of a dog walking couple who alerted the police. Pandora was at least able to spend the night in a warm police station before being put back into care.

There was the privation that went with her circumstances. Pandora says she used to hate baked beans because when her mother didn’t have enough money, one tin would be shared between the three of them. Her sister Abigail was even forced to be sick on one occasion for eating too much food at the dinner table. And Pandora thinks this, along with some other reasons, might be why she later developed anorexia during her childhood.

Fostering the right spirit to achieve is so important.

Throughout her teenage years; and this is probably common amongst many foster children who are being shunted back and forth, Pandora grew to hate the word ‘Family’. As she says: “I hated the fact that others were so lucky enough to have one and I hated the fact that I was so unlucky in life to not have one.”

It is only recently that Pandora has decided to open up about her experiences. One of the main reasons is that she has met up with some children in foster care who sadly hate their lives and feel they cannot look forward to a future that is worth living. Pandora is determined to challenge this idea. Her own experiences growing up have been as upsetting at times as could be imagined for anyone. She is the living embodiment that having the right attitude means you can have a future to look forward to – wherever you come from in life. In her own words:

“You cannot let your past or present situation affect your future, from the moment you realise this you will know nothing is unachievable, do you think I got where I am by accident? Nahhh all you’ve got to do is focus on what you do want and be ready to work damn hard to get there.”

These are powerful words emanating from an indomitable character. Pandora has remained positive all the way through. She recognises that along the way things can improve – she had one foster care family she loved and thought were amazing. So it becomes clear to see why she has forged such an impressive career in media. She has the right approach and an extremely strong work ethic – which began at the age of sixteen when she started working six days a week: “ I’m a grafter and always will be and if you want to get anywhere in life you’ll be able to do it with this work ethic” And –

You cannot change the past, but the future is yours to make, that’s the beauty of it.”

Could there be more impressive, uplifting and inspirational words than these? They resonate so clearly with the thrust of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign theme #changeafuture Foster carers can and do do this, for thousands of vulnerable children every day. But when youngsters themselves, with the support and guidance of their carers, can see that having the right attitude themselves can make all the difference in the world.

During this important fortnight when so much attention is placed on fostering, promoting this message is crucial. If we can demonstrate that a foster carer who is able to instil this self-belief in the child they are looking after, will be helping them to remake their future. You can change the prospects for a child or young person. Please support this year’s campaign ‘Foster Care Fortnight’ – run by the Fostering Network #changeafuture  https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/fcf19

Pandora is promising to chronicle more of her experiences whilst growing up in foster care. Perhaps one day these might take the form of a book. What is beyond doubt is that hers is a journey that has resulted in some truly amazing life experiences. Hers is a career that looks like going from strength to strength and we need more role models like Pandora to show that the future is not pre-determined. With the support and enthusiasm of dedicated foster carers it is possible for a child or to have a dream and as the saying goes, “reach for the stars and land on the moon.”

Rainbow wants you to help further the ambitions of a child or young person.

Hopefully, you will have been moved and inspired by Pandora’s story. For part of her journey; as she acknowledges, she has depended on some amazing foster carers. These are difficult times: more and more vulnerable children are coming into the care system every day. Experienced foster carers are retiring and so there is a pressing need to replace them.

It is a depressing fact that half the people who grow up in care in the UK go on to have children who themselves then go into care. This is a self-perpetuating cycle, which needs to be broken as a matter of priority. To help with this we want to attract new applicants into fostering. So Rainbow is supporting the aims of Foster Care Fortnight. It’s all about raising the profile of fostering.

If you are keen to discover more about life as a foster carer, you can call us or even come along for a coffee. Just meeting some of our foster carers will, we hope, inspire you. 

Career options.

There are many different types of fostering. You could be trained to look after a parent and child for example. At the present moment in time, there is an acute shortage of foster homes for teenagers and sibling groups. If you welcome siblings into your home, its a bit like acquiring an instant family. And what is particularly rewarding, is that you know you are keeping brothers and sisters together.

We train all our foster carers to look after children between the ages 0 – 18.  but we recognise you may have particular age or gender preferences. It’s interesting that people’s preconceived ideas often change when they learn more about fostering. Some of our carers look after and find it extremely rewarding caring for asylum-seeking children. So there are many options to consider, but in our matching process, we will always respect your preferences. All our foster carers are supported 24 hours a day all year round. One of the reasons we are an Ofsted rated Outstanding agency is the lengths we go to in supporting our foster carers.

Fostering is challenging. The needs of children are changing. More are coming into care with complex needs. Many have experienced different forms of abuse or neglect. You will see on our website that there is a section on therapeutic fostering. Carers who do this, will have been specially trained to support youngsters who are on individually devised therapeutic care recovery programmes. This type of fostering attracts enhanced levels of payment which means a therapeutic foster carer can earn up to £40k per annum.

If you are not based in London, you can also foster with Rainbow in Birmingham, Manchester, Hampshire and the South Coast.

Wherever you want to foster, you can take those first steps by ringing our Head Office on 020 8427 3355, or our recruitment team will be happy to take your call via our National Line 0330 311 2845. Should you want to find out more about what fostering involves, you can fill your details in on this website and arrange for us to call you back when it is convenient. You can also ring us right now on our Head Office number 020 8427 3355 or our National Line 0330 311 2845.

Find out more by visiting http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/becoming-a-foster-carer/ and if you would like to discover more about becoming a therapeutic fostering visit http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/therapeutic-foster-carer/

And the good news at the end of this particular Rainbow…

one of our foster children won a gold medal in a martial art kickboxing championship held in Swindon. We’re all very proud!

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